How to Create an Organized, Productive Study Space
Productivity is about finding space
I have often thought that we choose to marry someone who has something we don’t have, but we wish we had. So it makes sense that now that I feel secure in my relationship with the farmer, I am going to tell you what he has that I want: Photos for my blog.
I’m so bad at taking photos of the farm, and he is great at it, so I stole one of the photos he took to document the mud. He says March is the mud month.
I have tried a few times to take pictures of the farm. I am in love with the farmer, but also, I am in love with the farm. And the farmer will never let me put a picture of him on my blog, so I decided to show you how beautiful the farm is. But I am realizing that photos are like writing: You can only show a fresh perspective of something you know very well.
I remember when I taught creative writing to freshmen at Boston University. The first month almost every student wrote about sex. I went to my advisor and asked him why I am getting twenty stories about having sex.
He said, “Are all the stories terrible?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “That happens every semester. When you love something, you want to write about it. But you never know enough about it to write it in an interesting way until you know it closely enough to hate it as well.”
The farm is too new to me. I take cliched pictures of cows like my students wrote cliched stories of passion. Fortunately, the farmer takes really good photos.
I like this one because it shows how quiet and desolate the winter is. When I tell people I’m moving to the farm, they say, “What will you do in the winter?”
In fact, I love winter on the farm. I love that it’s dead quiet. I love that we get snowed in from time to time. I love that the fields are freezing but the house is warm and cozy. Mostly, though, I love the farm because there’s so little going on. If you look closely, there’s a lot, of course. The farmer once told me there are millions of different minerals in every handful of dirt; he can see infinite action on the farm.
Compared to other places I have lived, the farm gives me space to think. My head is always swimming with ideas, I’m always writing or reading. Even when I’m sitting still, I’m writing sentences in my head and battling with myself if they are good enough to get up and get a pencil before I forget what I wrote.
Jason Fried is always talking about . In a video I can’t find, Jason explained that his business partner used to live in Holland. And Jason lived in Chicago. And his partner moved from Holland to Chicago so they’d get more done together. But they got less done. Because you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done.
Jason recent book, Rework, is about counter-intuitive ways to be more productive (here is a for the book). Rework full of stuff he learned as he grew his company, 37 Signals. I love the book because the advice is short and true — like have a short to do list so that you can actually get it done. And make tiny decisions so that you can keep moving instead of doing nothing while you make a huge decision.
The book is timely for me because Jason forces us to see that productivity is really about slowing down to focus on doing something real, instead of moving really fast but doing a lot of nothing. But Jason doesn’t let you off the hook by telling you to do nothing; he gives you tips for continuing to move forward, but in a very smart way.
I am doing that on the farm. Slowing down. Making space. Not letting myself do things that should never have been on my to do list anyway. But the tradeoff, when you slow down to get focus, is that slow is scary because you have to face what you're really doing.
Making space to do something that matters is scary because something has to give, and I am figuring out what that means for me.
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